This weekend kicks off Black Restaurant Week in North Texas.
The event has been around for several years. But in light of the pandemic, organizers said this year’s 10-day push to get people to Black-owned businesses is more crucial than ever.
Longtime Dallas restaurant Smokey John’s BBQ is participating for the first time after it took a hit during the pandemic.
“When it first hit, we lost 55% in sales within three to four weeks and it was a challenge,” President Brent Reaves said.
Reaves said it was thanks to a PPP loan and a lot of creativity that he and his brother kept their father’s legacy afloat.
But it wasn’t easy, and this week they hope to strengthen those efforts by participating in Black Restaurant Week for the first time.
“It creates a new audience, a new customer base, a new group of people that just don’t know about you, people that just haven’t given you a chance,” Reaves said.
Over the next 10 days, North Texans are encouraged to visit one or more of the participating restaurants.
Others include Vinettis, South Dallas Café, Harris House of Heroes, Burger IM, Pangea, Wings World, Turkey Dam and Ten 01 Bistro.
When it comes to this year’s need, organizers point to a University of California Santa Cruz study that found 41% of Black-owned businesses have closed since February compared to 17% of white-owned.
Co-founder Derek Robinson said it all comes down to the barriers to entry faced by minority business leaders.
"In this demographic, there's always an issue with restaurants getting started as far as a lack of capital and sometimes that's a rolling effect,” Robinson said.
That makes the event's free marketing a life raft for some who’ve struggled to weather the storm of this last year.
Reaves said he’s hopeful it also serves as an opportunity to connect.
“I think that some of the reservations that we may have begun to be lowered as we learn about more communities and learn about other cultures,” Reaves said. "Maybe our flavor's different or our taste is different. But as a whole, we really all enjoy the same thing sitting down together, having a wonderful meal together, having a lot of laughs."
Black Restaurant Week runs through March 21.